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Neglected Gems: Sans soleil

Sans soleil @ Amazon

Chris Marker is a French filmmaker and journalist who’s spent his career blurring the boundaries between the two fields. Born in Mongolia, the reclusive Marker is probably best known for 1963’s post-apocalyptic vision La Jetée but, among the Criticker users who have seen it, Sans soleil (Sunless) is his greatest achievement.

Put your horn-rimmed glasses on and brew a strong cup of espresso before putting this one in your DVD player: watching Sans soleil is an exercise in appreciating cinematic art. The film consists of factual documentary sequences from Japan and Western Africa, while a fictional narrator recites love letters penned by a fictional cameraman. Sound exciting? Well … it can be.

Allowing yourself to get drawn into Marker’s world, contemplating the meaning of the juxtaposition of scenes from different ends of the world and history, deciphering the blend of documentary and fiction, and trying to figure out what the filmmaker is trying to say about memory and truth, can be exhilarating in its own right — just in a different way than, say, The Dark Knight.

Intro, Sans Soleil — Just to let you know what you’re getting yourself into

As mentioned, the Criticker users who have seen it love this film. JakeAesthete says it’s “One of the most heartbreaking and poignant films i have ever seen”, and kyle.loomis had the following review:

Just images and sound. Amazingly they seem to go together pretty well. It’s almost like Brakhage, where you have to just shut your brain off. It took me about 30 minutes but once I put myself in the right mindset, it was a very rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to the next time I feel like watching it.

Sans Soleil is available on DVD, along with La Jetée… a package which combines Marker’s two most important films. Not to be missed, unless plotless French art films really aren’t your thing.

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